Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Top Five Ways I Avoid Writing

When I got up this morning the last thing I wanted to do was write. The thought forced a huge sigh through my lips. So, instead of beating my head against the desk to come up with an inspiring idea I opted to share the top five ways I manage to avoid writing when I'm not in the mood.

Number 5: I revise all my goals for the year. Goals are important to every writer and when I don't feel much like plunking my butt in the chair I can rationalize that revising all my goals for the next 12 months will be helpful to my career. I disregard all my past advice about needing specific goals and breaking them down into monthly or weekly blocks and write down an overwhelming list without focus. At least I've got goals...right?

Number 4: I say yes to helping out at every function at my daughter's school or our church. Volunteering will show my kids the importance of helping others and make me feel good about myself. I might overcommit myself, but those edits to my novel can wait.

Number 3: I pick up where I left off on that elaborate cross-stitching project so that I can give it to my sister for Christmas. Sure I've been working on it for the last ten years, but I have to finish it right now because it will save us money during the holidays and my sister will really appreciate all the hard work I put into it.

Number 2: I clean the house. Looking around me I see a thick layer of dust on every wooden surface, so I get out the duster and start sliding it along the entertainment center. Once the dusting is done I have to pull the central vac out to get all that nasty dust off the floor. My allergies will thank me for it. I can't possibly leave the floors unwashed at that point, so I haul the pail and mop out of the closet and start scrubbing. Maybe I'll even have time to clean out the linen closet that I've been meaning to get to for the past six months.

And the Number 1 way for me to avoid writing is...

Surfing the Internet. What a great tool the Internet is. I can perform all types of research for my novels and articles without leaving my home. But it's also a wonderful way to keep me in touch with friends and family. I wouldn't want to be accused of neglecting them by not checking out various forums several times a day. And I must make sure that I keep a close eye on my email. It would be tragic if I missed that imporant message from an editor.

See, you really can avoid writing. But maybe you already knew that.


Monday, July 23, 2007

So, You Want to Write a Novel?

Guest blog post by Elena Bowman. Check out here website here.

f your work has been written, bound, and someone else is the audience, does anyone really have to be paid for their work to be published? Is it less valued if the work has been for one's family rather than the marketplace? Or is it valued because someone simply believed that what you have written is worth reading?

Stop dreaming about being a writer. Stop thinking about being a writer. Stop talking about writing. Just write. Use paper and pen, word processor, typewriter or tape recorder, but start. Then follow through until you've said what you must. Remember, there's always editing tomorrow.

You should have an idea or two that you'd like to write about. Some authors like to create an outline before beginning a story or a book. I tried it once, but found it to be restrictive, so I no longer outline, I prefer to let the creative juices run their own course. You don't have to be structured at this point, because as you write, you may decide to reposition some of your paragraphs or chapters to other parts of the book. Once you've started to put the first words on paper (or a file in the computer), just continue to write. Try to do at least 10 pages, 20 is better, (double-spaced) a day. Always finish the sentence or paragraph you are working on before you stop writing. If possible jot down a few notes on where you think you'll be going with the story before you leave it so you won't start out cold the next time. You don't really have to know the ending before you start. It will come in time.

When you begin again, reread what you have written the previous time, and continue on. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish by doing this. You don't have to know the ins and outs of a particular place from a first hand experience as long as you do research on the subject or area you are writing about. Writers, artists, and crafts people learn from their mistakes as well as creating good work. No creative person created a masterpiece without many words, brush strokes, or stitches in their needlework. It is the sum total of a person's work that allows her to become skilled. One must write every day and evaluate and rewrite later. There can always be rework of the original, but there must be an original.

Remember it's only the first draft it's not cast in stone. Make time to write. Early morning or late at night. I started writing after the kids went to bed and continued to two or three in the morning before my husband turned out the lights. (I had to go to work the next day). Like exercise, it is hard to get started and hard to be self-disciplined, but the process becomes the reward. It simply feels good doing it. The pleasure and absorption of the creative person is its own reward.

I found myself writing during working hours when something popped into my head. If it's not possible to do this (write during working hours) try using a recorder. A thought here, a sentence there, and when you reread your notes, you can come up with a chapter or two. This is important because one can never recapture those fleeting thoughts, even if one thinks so. Once gone, it seldom re-emerges. Always carry a tape recorder or small notebook with you so you can jot down these precious gems when they make themselves known.
When writing don't think about the big picture. Concentrate only on one chapter at a time. If the opening paragraph stumps you go to the next and go on from there. Before you know it, looking back, you've accomplished far more that you could have imagined possible. As a race-horse must wear blinders to keep himself from being frightened by distractions, so too must writers keep their focus on smaller portions of their environment to enable concentration and creativity. Remember, for writers, the key to success in writing is focus, focus, focus.

Don't get hung up on words. If you can't come up with the right word you want to use to begin with, place something similar in that spot that will trigger your memory and research it later. When I'm stuck on a particular thought or paragraph, I put a couple of asterisks in bold letters in the problem area and continue working elsewhere. Initials will work too. When I'm ready to go back and tackle the problem, or insert missing data or details, I use the search and replace feature on my word processor to find those asterisks and get going again. Always keep a Thesaurus or Synonym Finder by your side as you write. I do.

Always get to know your characters. Define your characters by filling out a character chart on each one. Detail everything you'd like your character to be and how you expect your character to behave. This way, when the character in question does something or acts out of character you'll know something isn't right.

Setting is most significant in a mystery story. But it's just as important in other stories as well. If you can't visit various sites for atmosphere, research.

Certain moments in real life seem to imprint themselves on one's brain. Why these particular scenes are locked in is unclear but analyzing them and describing them can be useful to your stories, either the one you're working on or another at some other time.

What's the first thing you do when you put together a jigsaw puzzle? Several answers are suggested -- find the corner pieces, find the straight edges, do the top, bottom, and sides, etc. But the answer really is: The first things you do is pour out all the pieces on the table, and then you sort them out.

Now when writing an article or articulating an idea write — without any thought to form or structure. Pour out all your ideas for the piece into your computer. After that, rearrange your thoughts. Print a draft copy so you can refer back to particular phrases after you start changing the sequence of your original thoughts. This simple puzzle idea really helps keep one on track.

The technique of clustering to record the first flush of unorganized ideas about a subject helps to quickly jot down fleeting thoughts about people and places.

All stories must have conflict — good versus evil, a triumph over a problem. Always ask yourself — what's the conflict in my story. How did my subject overcome it?

Research, research, research information you wish to include in your story. Even in fiction writing, when using any historical incidents, be sure they are accurate. There is nothing worse than a writer including in their work inaccurate historical references that can easily be dismissed by the reader, who may then do the same with your work.

Before you sit down to write, make sure (as much as possible) that all distractions have been eliminated so your creativity isn't disrupted. Always wear comfortable clothing; have something to drink nearby (ex. water, juice, coffee, hard stuff please) so you won't have to stop working to quench your thirst. The same applies to snacks and/or lunches — if you're working through.

So what if after all of the above, you can't get past the first three chapters of a novel? Don't despair. Put it aside and start something else. Perhaps they weren't meant to be a book on their own, only short stories, or, those chapters may come to fruition in another novel and at another time.

After printing out the first chapter, because everything always looks different when actually printed in black and white, re-read it, make corrections and changes in red (so it can be easily seen) then re-type, with emphasis on smoothness and continuity, before going on to the next chapter.

When all the chapters have been written, edited and printed out, and your story or book is finally complete, re-read the entire project making changes as you do. Re-type and repeat the process until you feel comfortable with what you have written before you let anyone else see or read it. Because if you get hung up on a sentence or section, so will the reader.

After my critic's have commented on my work and I have made the suggested changes and all seems well, I send it out to publishing houses and/or agents and wait. I try to keep three copies of a story out at one time. When rejections arrive, I immediately send my work out again to the next name on the list. But that was before I acquired an Agent, (which I no longer have). Still, I always keep duplicates of my work. Copies have been known to go astray before (and even after) reaching the editor's desk.

The most important factor to remember is, keep positive and keep writing. Perseverance will win out.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Returning to work...

I have spent the past month on 'hiatus'. For the novel aspect, it was intentional, from the blogging aspect...not-so-much. But now it's time for me to buckle back down and get back to work!! The month has flown so fast.

For my time off I focused on my family. So many major things were happening and I was flooded with appointments with doctor's and therapists, and had absolutely no free time! It was a blessing in disguise, though. Why?

I took a month off from my novel. The book that I'd been writing almost non-stop for three years was swept to the side. I was not ALLOWED to touch it. I wanted to be able to come back to it with "fresh eyes". I honestly didn't think I could do it. But now, I'm finding it hard to get back to it.

Real life is settling down, the endless run of doctor's appointments are over. I have no more why do I hesitate?

Because restarting means that in a month's time (at most) I will be sending my baby off into the world to face rejection and (hopefully) acceptance...I will be starting that roller coaster ride of querying agents on the piece that has been seven years (total) in the making. A novel I never dreamed I would actually attempt to sell, but is now just waiting for the final tweaking.

Honestly, it scares the living heck out of me...but I'm ready to do it. My husband has been bugging me all month wanting to know what happened to the novel and why he hasn't heard anything since that night I jumped up and down for 'finishing' it!! Now, he gets to find out what REALLY happens next...and so do I!

And then I have to face the fact that I need to write more than just that novel...and buckle down and write some of the ideas floating in my brain!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Time away can be inspiring

Well, the Outer Banks was lovely again this year. I can't tell you how much I needed this unexpected trip down south. I've been putting in long hours trying to keep my head above water. Multiple author interviews, books reviews, work on the Musing Our Children project, and family commitments, have left me little time to do anything but work.

And we know that all work and no play is not a way to live life.

So, what did I do while I was playing around in the Outer Banks? I enjoyed my family because my online time was limited. We went to see Cinderella at The Lost Colony and Thaddeus Rex at the Roanoke Island Festival Park. Thaddeus Rex is a young entertainer who travels the country trying to inspire kids to read and write. He was awesome! We also lived at the beach because the weather was perfect for it.

You might be wondering right about now what all this stuff has to do with my writing?

Well, back to Thaddeus Rex for a minute. I spoke to him after the show and told him about the Musing Our Children Project. That's probably the first time I admitted face to face to a perfect stranger that I'm a writer. Scary and exciting all at the same time.

I read several months of trade journals and a book by Jamieson Wolf which I'll review hopefully this week at my blog. And then, I was inspired to start two new blogs and refocus my attention at my Aspiring Author blog to be more about me and my life as a wife, mother, and aspiring author than about the works of others.

My first new blog--The Book Connection--, will be the place for me to post interviews with authors, editors, and publishers, along with the book reviews I do outside of those for the Muse.

The second is a blog about the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I figure it will be a mix of my travel experiences and a place to promote tourism in the area. Loving the Outer Banks ( is good for a couple reasons. I will contact businesses and organizations to feature them at my blog, which could help them generate revenue. But also, think of how great it will be if I do get to move down there one day and I already have a bunch of people who know who I am. Getting local work could be a lot easier. And, it will also help me plan my family's vacations to the area because I'll know more about what is going on down there.

And by refocusing my original blog to be more in tune with its original theme, I might get more readers there as well.

So, I see lots of pluses and no minuses right now.

I could never have gotten the inspiration to do these things if my head was still overcrowded with all the stuff I still had to work on and staying up late to try and accomplish it all.

Take some time away, even if it's just an escape to the park or a long walk, so you can think about your writing without your mind being cluttered with every single thing on your plate. Focus your mind only on what you want to accomplish with your writing. Think about what will get you to the point you want to be.

I bet you'll come up with some ideas just like I did. And isn't this the business where ideas are woven into bigger and better things?


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Meet Susan Gregg

Not long ago I had the pleasure of a virtual trip to Hawaii to chat with author Susan Gregg. Kick off your shoes, put your feet up and join us. Just keep one eye on the shoes...Sassy might try to borrow them.

StoryCrafters: First, how about telling us a little about yourself.

Susan: My name is Susan Gregg and I'm the author of seven books. I was born in New York City and I currently live on the beautiful island of Hawaii. I love writing and the title of my most recent book is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Meditations.

StoryCrafters: Very cool! How long have you been writing and what made you put that first story/poem down on paper?

Susan: My first book was published in 1992, but I've been writing since the 70s. About the same time I started meditating. I began to journal, and that's how I started writing.

StoryCrafters: What do your family/friends thing about your writing? Are they supportive?

Susan: When my first book Dance of Power came out I talked a great deal about my childhood and my father was not very supportive. He hated the book and asked me how I could tell all those lies. He got over it and he is very proud to tell people I'm a writer. My friends think it's wonderful.

StoryCrafters: For you, what is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?

Susan: Often times, getting started is most frustrating for me. Once I get started I usually enjoy it. The most rewarding part is the feedback from my readers. I love getting e-mails and letters from readers telling me how I've changed their lives. I never thought I would be a writer and I'm very glad I am.

StoryCrafters: Do you read much? What kinds of books inspire you to write – if any? Who are your favorite authors?

Susan: I read almost every night. Right now I'm rereading the Harry Potter series getting ready for the next book. I read a wide variety of books. I love mysteries and books on spirituality and self-help. I have a long list of favorite authors.

StoryCrafters: Where do you get most of your ideas from? Life? Or your imagination? A mix?

Susan: I get a lot of my ideas when I meditate. I guess you could call that my imagination.

StoryCrafters: Do you have days when the words won't flow? What do you do?

Susan: I figured out a long time ago that when the words weren't flowing do something else. I go for walk, go to the beach, play with my dogs, clean the house or read a good book. I found sitting at the computer trying to write didn't help at all.

If I have a deadline looming I'll sit down with my journal and just write whatever comes to mind. Often it's things like I hate writing or I can't do this. Once I get all the garbage out of my head the words start to flow again.

StoryCrafters: Do you have a "golden rule" of writing that almost always works for you?

Susan: I guess I'd have to say my Golden rule when it comes to writing and to life for that matter it to be passionate about what I'm doing no matter what that is.

StoryCrafters: What is the best piece of advice you've been given as a writer? What's the worst?

Susan: The best piece of advice was to write from my heart and the worst piece of advice is to write what sells.

StoryCrafters: Did we forget anything? What would you like to add? Any upcoming publications or links for our readers? Current projects we should watch for?

Susan: I just like this take a moment and say thanks for having me. I have several magazine articles coming out and some upcoming radio interviews. Your readers can go to my website to find out more. And again thanks for having me.